Gazette letters 11/4/13

A stunningly colouful Stornoway harbourscape taken from Cuddy Point sent in by reader Laura Mackenzie. 'If you would like to contribute to our Beautiful Islands feature email: Include your name, where you are from, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture
A stunningly colouful Stornoway harbourscape taken from Cuddy Point sent in by reader Laura Mackenzie. 'If you would like to contribute to our Beautiful Islands feature email: Include your name, where you are from, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture
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From 10th April 2013, the Inverness-shire and Western Isles Branch of military charity SSAFA Forces Help is changing its name to SSAFA as part of a rebrand aimed at improving awareness of the charity amongst members of the Forces community, and in the community at large.

This is particularly important at a local level where SSAFA’s teams of trained volunteers work hard to ensure that help and advice are always close at hand. Last year alone, the Inverness-shire and Western Isles Branch supported 108 veterans and their families in our local community.

Families have always been at the heart of what SSAFA does and they have been put at the centre of the brand. The change of name is supported by a modern new logo with a three colour underline to represent the charity’s lifelong support to the Navy, Army and Royal Air Force.

These changes follow a long period of consultation with volunteers and staff as well as members of the military community. SSAFA has supported our Forces and their families for more than 125 years but the work we do now is more vital than ever before. It is really important that those who serve and those who used to serve in our Forces know that SSAFA is here for them and their families - for life.

Paul Jenkins, Chairman, SSAFA Inverness-shire and Western Isles Branch


I have been a frequent visitor to your island recently and was interested to read a letter in the Stornoway Gazette last week on the subject of wind turbines.

Being from Holland I do profess some knowledge of green energy programs and windmills. I wanted to write with some responses to your correspondent Mr Maclennan. Forgive my English if I am not so windy in my reply.

First of all though, I think his tone is too gloomy about wind energy. Windmills don’t have to be like pockmarks. I have seen many attractive windmills in my country. The Isle of Lewis has an obvious application for wind energy so why ignore its own patrimony?

In the Nederlands we have an old tradition of transforming our environment to improve our lives. The Isle of Lewis can only benefit from that. A sparsely populated moorland area can be a bounty for the whole island.

I see Mr Maclennan is sceptical of people’s motives for being involved in pushing forward this important technology. He also raises concerns in the islanders self motivation and willingness to work. I can offer a simple way out of that pessimistic bind without debating either point.

In my home municipality we have three wind-energy co-operatives. These co-operatives pay an annual dividend to the initial seed funders and the excess energy in their holding capacity is used to provide free power to the entire community. That is: irrespective of their involvement in the wind projects.

So come on guys, give start-ups like Horshader Community Development a bit of credit for what they may be doing. If people want to get involved then look at a more inclusive model of ownership. No-one can dispute entitlements and ‘invisibles’ when everything is above board and evenly distributed.

I think in closing you might be surprised how much public spirit is out there.

Jan De Groot, Edinburgh


It really sorrows me to see the bile being cast upon Mairead Philpott after her conviction along with husband Mick and and friend Paul Mosley over the death of her six children.

Whilst the two men seem somewhat vile individuals who could well benefit from a few years in gaol, it is clear from the manslaughter charges brought that they never intended to injure anybody but merely suffered from extreme stupidity.

Rather than being locked up at vast public expense, surely hearing the screams of her dieing children should be enough punishment for Mrs Phllpott who seems to have been just as much a victim of her husband’s controlling ways as the unfortunate children themselves.

John Eoin Douglas, Edinburgh


In last week’s Gazette (April 4th) I wrote to the Letters page that the Free Church feel there could be a greater unity with the Church of Scotland. There is too much Presbyterianism denominationalism, though they all share the same core beliefs, it is said.

I was greatly encouraged when I got to the District News that three hundred to four hundred people gathered the previous week in the Church of Scotland, Tarbert, to induct an ex Church of Scotland minister to Scalpay Free Church.

I kind of got carried away with the swiftness of this greater unity seemingly taking effect, which was short-lived when a Tarbert woman pointed out to me - in a no uncertain manner - that the Free Church was only using the Tarbert Church building, disclaiming any greater unity move, and that the building is not the Church. The ones who gathered there that day, in other words, were the Church. But that would include the Church of Scotland wouldn’t it, though she tried to say it was an exclusive Free Church affair? So much for the greater unity.

Many people from other denominations would have turned up at the Induction reception as well, and that wouldn’t make the whole affair exclusive. What’s been disconcerting is that Church of Scotland ministers have been abandoning the church people and going to the Free Church to serve, and at the same time the Free Church are calling for greater unity with the Church of Scotland. Sounds contradictory to me.

Providence, no doubt, has played a part in the Tarbert Church/Free Church Induction, in that they had to hold the Induction there. Maybe not. They could have held the Induction in the Community Centre, which would have been more in keeping with this greater unity as the building is not the Church, is it? But instead they had to hold the Induction in the church. Easy enough to get confused.

Donald Murray, Inverness


Fond memories of the old Loch Seaforth - Stornoway to Mallaig - good weather and bad feelings of nostalgia and homesickness as she sailed out of Stornoway at midnight, the pier full of people waving. Memories of Gaelic songs being sung until two or three in the morning, maybe not so fond!

The steerage crammed with passengers adults and kids returning after Glasgow Fair can still hear the creaking as she ploughed through the sea.

I remember a relation of mine, working on the boat, offered me his cabin where I tried to doze after leaving Kyle. At around 5am I was brought to my senses by an alarm going off and on investigating found crew rushing everywhere. I thought the worst!

Someone in the passing shouted get back to your bunk, it’s only the crew having fire drill.

So pleased they’ve listened and who knows, maybe someday there will be a sailing on that same old route the Loch Seaforth took from Stornoway to Mallaig via Kyle.

Sheila Mackay, Newtonmore


The Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) is a leading Service membership charity whose aim is to care for and look after the whole Air Force family.

Membership is open to serving and ex-Royal Air Force personnel, ex-members of the Royal Observer Corps and those with an interest in the RAF or aviation. The Stornoway Branch, which covers the Western Isles, with demands for its services increasing because of the advancing age of many war veterans, and the needs of those involved in more recent conflicts, is seeking to increase our membership.

If you are eligible and would like to become a member of Associate member please write or phone - The Royal Air Forces Association, 20 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JX or telephone 0133112255221 or The Royal Air Forces Association, 11 Melbost, Point, Isle of Lewis, HS2 0BG or telephone 01851 705561.

John Maclean, Chairman Northern Scotland Region, Royal Air Forces Association


The humanitarian crisis arising from the conflict in Syria is becoming increasingly urgent by the day.

Last month I travelled to Jordan, where I witnessed first hand the desperate plight of the Syrian children who have had to flee the escalating violence.

Imagine having to leave your house under the cover of darkness, with nothing more than the clothes you are wearing, in order to try to take your children to a place of safety; that nightmare has become a reality for many of the families that are seeking shelter in Jordan and the neighbouring countries.

On reaching the relative safety of the camps, so many children have already experienced things no child should ever have to endure. They have experienced tragic loss and horrific violence that most adults would find impossible to deal with. Many struggled to tell me their stories, pausing as they recounted tales of hiding in basements while their homes were destroyed and fleeing with their families amid terrifying gunfire as night fell.

The scale of the crisis facing Syria’s children requires a massive response from international humanitarian organisations. As this crisis approaches its third year, 1.3 million people have now had to flee the violence with thousands more making the heartbreaking journey each night. Over half of these are children.

These children stands on a precipice. Without immediate help they risk becoming a ‘lost generation’; they are witnessing their past and their futures disappear amidst the rubble and destruction of this crisis. UNICEF staff and partners are working around the clock in Syria and the neighbouring countries to provide essential supplies including water, vaccines, emotional and psychological support, education and protection to children and families in urgent need. But with the crisis showing no signs of easing, the challenges we face are many.

UNICEF is desperately short of funds for this real and immediate crisis for children. Unless a 72% funding gap is bridged very soon, UNICEF will be forced to scale back on even life-saving interventions. UNICEF UK has launched the Syria Children’s Appeal to help the children who are most at risk as this humanitarian crisis continues. UNICEF receives no money from the UN budget and we rely entirely on voluntary donations.

We need your help, and we need it now. £5. Please text the word DONATE to 70099 to give £5 now or visit This is a real and immediate crisis for the children of Syria. I urge you to give whatever you can to help us alleviate their suffering.

David Bull, Executive Director, UNICEF UK


Transport links are absolutely crucial to the sustainability of the Western Isles and it can be said without a shadow of a doubt that any reduction in links is a backward step.

2013 is in danger of going down in history as the year of transport cuts. First casualty were the inter-island flights - under used and expensive as they may have been, it is much easier to take away a service than to bring it back. Islanders have long had to fight for decent travel connections and indeed that fight goes on in parts of the Western Isles where ferry connections are still not satisfactory.

Then there were cuts to flights to the mainland and now the rising costs of transporting commodities such as newspapers to the islands is in question. These are not positive steps for the islands where the community is constantly striving for a sustainable future. Politicians must stick together and take stock of the bigger picture.